Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders

Ming-Ka Chan, M.D. - True Belonging and Dignity

April 17, 2022 Season 1 Episode 119
Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders
Ming-Ka Chan, M.D. - True Belonging and Dignity
Show Notes Transcript

Ming-Ka Chan, MD is a Clinician Educator and Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. She's a Chinese immigrant grateful to live and work in Treaty 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Metis Nation (currently known as Winnipeg) in Turtle Island (presently known as Canada). A Pediatrics Clinician Educator at the University of Manitoba, her scholarship focuses on leadership education and social justice in the health professions.

She is currently the Co-Director, Office of Leadership Education, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, and Director of the Shantou University Medical College-University of Manitoba Academic Exchange. Chan is also Co-Chair of the Canadian Association for Medical Education CLIME 2.0 leadership intensive.

She looks at leadership education across the educational continuum in the five health colleges and the inaugural Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity, and Social Justice Lead for the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health. Dr. Chan is the current chair of Sanokondu, a global community of practice focused on health leadership education emphasizing learners.

Quotes From This Episode

  • "It's really hard to be well if you've never felt welcome."
  • "You talked about 'successful,' I think each person might have a different word or metric for what that looks like. More recently, in the last decade, it's really about this idea of having true belonging and dignity, and that's the starting point to get to our best self."
  • "It's important to be equity-seeking and really respect diverse voices. It can be hard to do - you may not even realize who is not at the table, or for that matter, the circle...asking questions, being curious and really listening with intent."

About the 2022 ILA Healthcare Conference

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

About The International Leadership Association (ILA)

  • The ILA was created in 1999 to bring together professionals with a keen interest in the study, practice, and teaching of leadership. Plan now for ILA's 24th Global Conference online October 6 & 7, 2022, and/or onsite in Washington, D.C., October 13-16, 2022.

Connect with Scott Allen

Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are about 90% accurate 

Scott Allen  0:00  

Okay, everyone, welcome to the Phronesis podcast wherever you are in the world. Today, I have Ming-Ka Chan, MD, and she is a Chinese immigrant grateful to be living and working in treaty one territory in the homeland of the Metis Nation, currently known as Winnipeg, in Turtle Island, currently known as Canada, a pediatrics clinician-educator at the University of Manitoba. Her scholarship focuses on leadership education and social justice in the health professions. She is the inaugural co-director, Office of leadership education, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, where she looks at leadership education across the educational continuum in the five health colleges, as well as the inaugural Equity Diversity inclusivity and social justice lead for the department of pediatrics and child health. She is also the current chair of the Sanokondu, a multinational Community of Practice, focused on health leadership education, with an emphasis on learners. And we're going to put a link to that in the show notes Ming-Ka. I am so grateful for your time today, I said to you, before we started to record, at least here in the United States, I can't think of a more difficult profession to lead in than health care. Now, maybe if I'm running a nuclear factory, or if there's some type of conflict happening somewhere in the world, but healthcare by gosh, the 24/7 nature of of the work, the type of work that's happening, the change the regulation, just so many different dynamics, I've kind of come across three or four different physicians that I've met in my time, who are passionate about this topic. So, I'm so excited to speak with you today. Because I have great respect for your work, helping individuals be better prepared to serve in these really complex roles. Now, before we jump into that, though, tell us a little bit more about you. What do listeners need to know about you as an individual? 

Ming-Ka Chan  2:04  

Thanks, Scott. So, I'm a, as mentioned, I've emigrated here when I was seven, born to parents from Hong Kong and China, and really privileged actually, because they're both educated, and they were bilingual. So, they both spoke English, my pronouns are she and her, I'm cisgender. And I'm married to community GI and hepatologist. So, two children. So, a lot of really part of my wealth and happiness is really tied into that, to my family, really part of my privilege. And I think I work in the space to really acknowledge my biases, I'm trying to always learn to use my privilege wisely, and really acting to figure out what the truth is, and working to reconcile, you know, both past and current harms, with the original peoples of this land, as well with other oppressed groups. And I think for me, leadership education is one of the ways forward in this journey. Personally, some other loves. I love Pilates travel prior to the pandemic was a big part of personal and family joy. And I love most genres in literature. So, appreciate some time to do all those things. You're a reader and a traveler, what would be a couple of your favorite places to visit in the world? If you mean going forward, or in the past? Well, I think maybe a place that you've been that you just fell in love with is anything come to mind. I've been to many parts. I actually spend time in Singapore and Trinidad, actually born in England, of course, Hong Kong and China. And I think all parts are very beautiful. Certainly, the family bucket list have been to different places in Europe. I think, personally, I'd love to be able to visit Africa, India, and also get to know the country of my parents’ heritage. And I'm looking forward to that. We have in my family a shared passion for travel. And so, we have this, we have this year set up moving forth that I hope it can happen. I hope there isn't like something after omicron There isn't any other letters is there. It's pretty much taken care of now, isn't it? Wow. Let's hope it settles in terms of severity of illness and infectivity, that's for sure. And I mean, travel is so wonderful, right? Because that's how you learn about other parts of the world, or at least how I have and, and also, you know, in this context, just learning about one's own history can be incredibly powerful. So, tell me about this, this shared passion that we have for leadership. I do some work at the Cleveland Clinic here in Northeast Ohio. Actually

Scott Allen  5:00  

I'll be with a group of anesthesiology residents tomorrow. I was with some individuals online today on presentation skills. So, I did that work with them from the Cleveland Clinic, I started my career in healthcare really helping doing leadership, education, and helping in the case of the context of this health care facility. Our nurse managers are actually our charge nurses who moved into nurse manager roles, or nurse managers who are moving into director roles, helping them be more successful when serving in these really complex roles. Because, as you know, you become a director and they hand you the P&L and share your quality scores. And maybe you are told that this faction of people doesn't like this faction, and you know, increase your Press Ganey, he's

Ming-Ka Chan  5:48  

And off you go!

Scott Allen  5:53  

I have so much respect for how you're thinking about leadership in the context of health care, because it's not easy work. It's a challenging context. 

Ming-Ka Chan  6:04  

Yeah, certainly very complex. And of course, over the pandemic, you'd argue that it's been chaotic. So, I came to, you know, my love of leadership, really about thinking about the importance of understanding what was necessary for each person to be their best possible self. So that might be you know, you talked about successful, I think each person might have a different, you know, word or metric for what that looks like. And then I think more recently, in the last decade, it's really about this idea of having true belonging and dignity. And that that's the starting point about to get to our best self. So, the way I think about as I work, you know, and that and the core of that is really the space of leadership, education, and then advocacy for social justice. And I, I feel like I work in that joint space. You know, it might be about mentorship and sponsorship, and coaching, you know, if I think about the work at the level of, you know, sort of personal or interpersonal team levels, might be listening to diverse voices, you know, especially those outside of our typical circle, seeking or giving feedback might be another area. And then it's about understanding change, how you can build coalitions and networks, when I think about it at the organizational level, or community. And of course, the system level. It’s certainly been an interesting and really a lifelong learning journey, most importantly, having a lot of fun to 

Scott Allen  7:37  

Talk to me about. Because you've been building this from the ground up. 

Ming-Ka Chan  7:41  


Scott Allen  7:42  

So how do you even begin that work? I mean, it sounds like you're very clear on, okay, here's what I'm trying to build and create, and, and why I'm doing what I'm doing, why this work is important. But talk about your path, because I know there's listeners that maybe have functional expertise, like medicine, or engineering or business and marketing, but now they're in in a different role. And they're now others are in their care, quote/unquote. There's eyeballs looking at them for co-creation and, and direction. And where did you start? When you began building? 

Ming-Ka Chan  8:25  

Yeah, that's a great question. And I think, you know, it's fascinating that you mentioned that because I think actually what we need to do is be better at co creating, that we're, you know, working at this together. I think one of the things is being willing to try it out and find people, I've been really fortunate to have incredible networks, and that I was able to find people who had similar ideas or interests, but yet could bring very different perspectives to the table to come up with something that I couldn't even have imagined. And I think it's important to do this work in all spheres of possible influence, you know, really, everywhere you look, one could influence another or oneself for that matter, to be our best possible self. Right? And what might that look like? I would certainly say in the early phases of starting some of my work and thinking it really was at the more individual level. And so, you know, working on developing, you know, mentorship programs, you're talking about how to seek and give meaningful feedback was sort of, you know, areas that I would focus attention, and then really thinking about what might be some times or groups who might benefit this more and so I think about times of transition, in my case, I do pediatrics and I spent a significant part of my time with residency education. And so, residents transition, for example, to be a senior resident where they're responsible for a team. So, I saw that as a key point, for example, or when they became chief resident, you know, the more senior with some leadership and managerial roles as chief resident, as it's called here currently, those would be other time points in terms of when some leadership development would be particularly important. And then last, but not least, really thinking about how different groups might have different needs, if, you know, going back to this concept of belonging, if you don't feel that you belong, you're part of an oppressed group, that history may mean that what you need from a mentor from a sponsor coach or your teachers might be very different. And how do we develop something that's going to meet the needs for those individuals and those groups? I don't think it's one size fits all, by any means, but really starting to think about what that might look like. 

Scott Allen  11:16  

What's so interesting that I could I mean, that the timing, that's just brilliant, yes. Because they, it's like a, hey, you're in charge now, or you're as more of a senior leader in this in whether it's formal or informal? Are we really helping you understand what leadership is because you can be practicing this every day, day after day? Yeah. And I love what you said about the belonging and how individuals have different needs. How do you help some of the students even begin to identify what their needs might be? Have you explored that work? 

Ming-Ka Chan  11:55  

I think it's still early days. And I really look to in this case, you know, diverse perspectives, actually asking students individually or in groups being very transparent about the importance of, of having these conversations, how might we do better in terms of when I seek feedback is how might I have made, you know, helped to create a more welcoming learning and work environment, for example, really deliberately seeking out that feedback and anticipating some of those situations that we know are difficult and healthcare, you know, where conflicts may arise and anticipating and, and actually having very open safe spaces to have those dialogues? I think that's where I've been starting in terms of my work as a clinical supervisor on the day-to-day aspect, as well as more deliberately in terms of curriculum development and other programming that one might get involved with

Scott Allen  12:58  

At the beginning of my PhD program, we wrote a personal narrative. And it was just this wonderful opportunity to kind of situate myself in this work, whatever that meant, right? I didn't even understand that phrase at the time. You know, the work. I was like, "what work?"..."Well Scott, you." like you said, like you said, it doesn't end. Such a wonderful opportunity to situate someone in their own space as a learner, as a leader, as a resident, as a student, whatever it is, to then help them become more clear with what they want to explore, and what they think they need to work on what they want to develop. It's just a great place to begin. And it's a great place and great way to be thinking about it.

Ming-Ka Chan  13:53  

And I think we have that ability capability to really influence that in so many different ways. So I think that everybody has the capacity for this work, so to speak. And I think that is something that we need to nurture, find out about, be curious and really explore it, because as we said earlier, if we can co create together, we will find the solutions, whatever the problem might be, certainly within health, but I think more broadly, you know, it's both health, health care in our community. And of course, like, you know, the planetary health issues that we need to think about, to make sure that we're sustainable. Those are all going to need to be done, not within silos, but collectively, and so we all have this capacity, and then we all have capacity in my world of education. We all have capacity as teachers to support that. And so educating five faculty how to both develop their own personal skills to be able to support nurture, mentor others, be it learners or peers, I think is incredibly important and a big part of this work.

Scott Allen  15:14  

Yep, talk some more about your passion. I mean, I'm paraphrasing. So please rephrase this if it's if I'm not stating this correctly. But at least how I heard parts of what you said in the beginning was, look, you know, we're doing this work so that we can foster a sense of belonging among people, and increase equity, so that more people can have access to become whatever it is in this world they want to become, would you talk a little bit about how you tapped into that passion? What in your lived experience has drawn you to to that purpose?

Ming-Ka Chan  15:56  

I think it's so it is complex in terms of how we get to each stage of our journey, right. And what the influences are so much is both work home, family, friends, but also societal, I think, at the end of the day, my current space is that it's really hard to be well, if you've never felt welcome. And so that, for me is that starting point, and I think it actually took me a long time to truly recognize some facets, both in my own, you know, perhaps personal experience, like where I have lots of privilege, and then there are some areas where I have less privilege. And while we want to, you know, and it's important to be equity seeking and really respect diverse voices, it can be hard to do, you may not even realize who is not at the table, or for that matter, the circle, many people won't come to a table, but perhaps to a Talking Circle, as an example. And so just, you know, coming to be aware of that, and asking questions, being curious and really listening with intent, and really thinking carefully about what the impact might be. So, I think I'm really learning from others, and that it's okay, when I have a different conceptualization of a word, I actually ask way more questions than I ever used to. Because the word that you might use, I might interpret differently. And so, I started going down some assumptions, right? And so now actually asking you to share with me what that what does that actually mean to you, has actually helped me to really learn and develop in in that work to be more supportive, and welcoming? I love that phrasing. It's hard to be well, if you don't feel welcome. Hmm. Did you just make that up on the spot? That's pretty incredible. Well, I've used it before, I've not Google searched whether I read it before. But I did have somebody comment about that. Yeah, I have variations of it. And you know, that speaks to sort of that. And it's, again, in speaking of language, is that so many of us are doing very similar work, we call it different things might be civility, yes. There's movements around kindness and healthcare, for example, maybe leadership development, which is part of the space I whether it is an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity work, or I know in the US, you call it DEI, in terms of his ordering. And I think also but those who work in and talk about burnout and well-being, we're all talking about the same things. We emphasize different areas, but there's a huge overlap. And it'd be great even within that scope for us to start having conversations and I try to sometimes I have to be careful because there's a tight, limited amount of time. But when we can join some other conversations and hear about how other groups are talking similar things it's really enriching can be great opportunities for further collaboration and doing some good work. 

Scott Allen  19:27  

I absolutely agree. Back to kind of the it's hard to be well, if you aren't welcome. I had a conversation with three guests. It was all about the episode was titled whiteness and leadership theorizing. Of course, you know, a lot of these and again, as I've had conversations with individuals in indigenous populations from Canada and New Zealand, as I've had conversations with, with women who are thinking about this from a gender perspective It's amazing when you step back and really kind of look at, well, how were these things, put together these theories? Who put them together? What what's being said, what's not being said? Right? What's in the foreground? What's in the background? And so to your point, you know, I forget the exact phrasing you use. But you said something to the effect of step back and really pause and really think about and reflect on. What does this mean? And what does it not mean? And who does, again, who may not feel welcome, because they don't see themselves as that charismatic leader out front, you know, because that's the dominant paradigm 

Ming-Ka Chan  20:47  

that actually was very eye opening for me. And that on two fronts, I was asked about who are my mentors? Interestingly, the majority of my mentors in the early phases of my career, I'd say, early and mid or men, women mentors, or more, I do have women mentors, currently. But the idea of an East Asian mentor would not have entered my mind, well, I'll be very honest. I'm not saying they didn't, they there certainly are. In the field, I'm sure there are many in in spaces that I don't, you know, in, in China, Singapore, etc., that I don't encounter. But in my world, it wasn't till more recently. And it was fascinating to be reached out to as a mentor, because of my intersectionality. And it never occurred to me to seek out mentorship for those reasons. But that is being valued. And so that was incredibly eye opening for me to just think about how I could be deliberate, it was uncomfortable, but then how I could be deliberate in supporting, as you mentioned, those who don't see themselves taking on leadership responsibility, and using their influence for good, and how you might nudge somebody bring to their attention and opportunity in a very deliberate way. And not assume that they you know, read the general email, or, you know, saw it on social media, etc., right, and how important it is to be considered. And in that role, or, and feel valued, because somebody else thought that you, you could do the job. And that's, that was incredibly eye opening, I'd say that it's only been in the actually the last couple of years that I've been just a bit more deliberate, or, and that's when I had those experiences. As I mentioned about representation, and mentorship, 

Scott Allen  22:59  

We'll think about all of the implicit leadership theories that we hold. And of course, you have these medical students who are brilliant physicians who are brilliant residents who are brilliant, but many of them are wandering around with these implicit leadership theories that the chief resident is the only person who leads or, you know, whoever supervises them. And that's the rule they have in their head. And you're coming along and tapping someone and saying, you could take this on, you could lead this, and they might not have ever even constructed themselves as someone who could do that work. And it's just, it's tragic, when you think of the potential lost. Yes, definitely. Add into that, then, if I'm not welcome, or I don't feel like I belong, or the traditional systems and structures are built in a way that again, foreground and background certain things that are working me that I have no idea they're even working me. Wow, yeah, complex. 

Ming-Ka Chan  24:04  

And I love that imagery of foreground and background, you know, or like, you know, if you were in theater or, you know, sort of, you know, what's in the wings, right, what's in? And what's on stage, very different. Yes, because we have to consider both aspects. Yep. The importance of all those really embedding it into everyday work. I think really, you could consider that your turn your head and there's something that would benefit from applying an equity and inclusivity lens to right and how we could do that better, I think is incredibly important, and providing spaces so that folks do feel courageous so that they can speak up I think therefore is so important. Because that it is possible to influence no matter who you are, then some of that comes from paying attention and actually being curious and speaking up, and how do we do that in an environment in the environments that we're in? And how might we make those environments more welcoming and more inclusive?  

Scott Allen  25:21  

Yep. Because people are even entering the space with a rule in their head that they don't, or yes, in their head, that they aren't the archetype or the rule in their head that so are we creating spaces where that's being invited, it's being welcomed, it's being encouraged so that people can find their voice. We have different archetypes of people who are in these leadership roles or influencing in moments. But then sitting back down and assuming, you know, the follower role, because that's what's in this situation.

Ming-Ka Chan  25:56  

And citizenship roles, too. I think that those are not valued or highlighted enough, I think just be you know, being a participant, and a citizen in all of this work is incredibly important.

Scott Allen  26:13  

You know, as we begin to wind down our time, what have you been reading or listening to or streaming that's caught your attention in recent months, it may have to do with what we've just discussed, it may have nothing to do with what we've just discussed. But what's caught your eye in recent times.

Ming-Ka Chan  26:32  

So I'm currently reading a book by Resmaa Menakem , I believe, and that's called My Grandmother's Hands. And it's about racialized trauma. And he talks about how white supremacy gets into our bodies, and not just into our minds, and how our bodies manifest the trauma. And then I've just finished Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, which I also enjoyed. And so those have been some of my eye below. I do belong to a journal club. That's multinational. That's fabulous. And we take turns reading different genres of books or topics, I suppose. Okay. 

Scott Allen  27:21  

And so it's not academic journal articles?  

Ming-Ka Chan  27:23  

No. No, not. Yeah. Book Club. Model. Yeah. And I think the other thing I really have been enjoying, and taking an advantage of over the pandemic is the virtual learning, right, we can join events anywhere at schools and universities, we have several series as part of our Sanokondu community, you know, to find these safe spaces for learning to talk about difficult topics. I also love chat for changes based out of the US. And they are, they also host some wonderful session. And it's just amazing to be able to, to learn and you know, really invest some of that time. And so I've really enjoyed taking advantage of whatever positive aspects of this pandemics/endemic that we have. 

Scott Allen  28:28  

Exactly. There's a little bit of a mindset there, where can we find the good, I'm taking a course, my last day is tomorrow for the last six weeks at six 6am to 9am. Wednesdays. And, you know, it's been an incredible experience to connect with people from all over the world, and continue my learning. And I can be in my pajama pants and learn.

Ming-Ka Chan  28:50  

Yeah, and I think that opportunity is unique because it means different voices. So you know, get to meet people from different health professions, patients, families, depending on the context, and it's very relationship centered. And so that's been sort of that wonderful opportunity, both and broadening the network. And then also connecting more with your sort of central peer support network raid. And that's been just an incredible opportunity where if you've had a group that might meet, you know, say at a conference once or twice a year and then talk by phone, but now could find a way to connect more regularly and how that's how enriching that is. That's really incredible. 

Scott Allen  29:42  

It is it is it makes the world smaller and connects you with a community of, of individuals with like minded interests that can go well for the world that can go Ill for the world. Yes, that is true. We will focus on the well for the world and...okay. It's hard to believe we're coming up on a couple years of this. But first of all, I want to say thank you for all that you do to keep your community safe and healthy. And I know that the last two years, just in your work has not been easy. So thank you for that. Number two, thank you for being passionate about leadership. And to your point, success is going to mean something different for everybody. But how do we better prepare people to serve in these roles, that can be really, really complex. So thank you for that. And thanks for spending some time with me today. And just having this conversation. I'm walking away, reflecting on and I always edit these and, and I kind of actually listen to the episode for the first time when I edit it, because I don't remember, oftentimes what we just discussed. I mean, conceptually, I do but I always hear new things and new insights when I really listened. So I'm really looking forward to going back through and connecting with our conversation here, because I just really appreciate it.

Ming-Ka Chan  31:09  

You know, likewise, I think that it's always interesting to hear how others, you know, interpret and then may reframe some of what you've been thinking about, and that advances things as well. So I appreciate that opportunity. So thank you. 

Scott Allen  31:27  

Okay, be Well, thank you so much. 

Ming-Ka Chan  31:30  

Likewise, take care bye bye.


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